By Dana Yamashita

According to a report from the World Economic Forum, creativity was one of the top three skills sought by employers in 2020. The theory has been that people are either left-brained or right-brained. The left-brained tend to be more analytical and methodical in thinking, while the right-brained are more creative and artistic.

Perhaps we can have the best of both worlds.

Dorit Nevo, associate professor in the Lally School of Management at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, recently published a report showing that standard information technology (IT) can be used for innovation. Moreover, if employees are motivated to master technology, understand their role in the organization, are recognized for their efforts, and are encouraged to develop their skills, it is much more likely that IT can encourage creativity.

“What this study reveals is that innovation is found not just by using technology specifically created to support idea generation,” Nevo said. “Creativity comes from both the tool and the person who uses it.”

There are likely few businesses not using common computer technologies. Business analytics programs, point-of-sale systems, and any number of word processing programs or database management systems are ubiquitous in the business world. Nevo sought to discover if standard IT systems could also be used by employees to create new ideas in the creative process.

She developed a theoretically grounded model to examine IT-enabled innovation and found that employees motivated to master IT can use even standard technology as a creativity tool, thus increasing the return on investment on the technologies companies already have in-house.

“An organization can get a lot more value out of their IT technology if they let the right people use them and then support them,” Nevo said. “This added value will, in turn, save organizations money because they don’t always have to invest in specialized technology in order for their employees to generate solutions to work-related issues or ideas for improvement in the workplace. You just have to trust your employees to be able to innovate with the technologies you have.”

Nevo conducted the research with Saggi Nevo from the University at Albany and Alain Pinsonneault from McGill University.